Speech Therapy

What Is Vocal Disorder? – An Overview

Over the years our voice changes, matures and then ages, but if we overuse it, or mistreat the vocal chords even if unintentionally by screaming or smoking etc, it gets affected. Vocal Disorder could be a result of weak larynx muscles, or cancer, or lesions, or muscle spasms, etc. Our voice can become hoarse, or weak, or whispery, or breathy depending upon the cause. Infections, harmful growths, acid refluxes, or paralysis of muscles of the throat could lead to some vocal disorder and conditions.

Diagnosis Of The Voice Disorders:
Let us learn more about how to detect the problems with voice. Change in voice is the very first indication of any problem. Pay attention to your own voice. Is it growing hoarse, sharp, loud, breathy, or whispery etc. If yes then it is time to visit a doctor and get it tested.

  • Mirror Exam:
    The expert uses a mirror to look for any visible disorder in the throat. The reflection in the mirror is used to detect the cause.
  • Laryngoscope:
    A small camera is used to view the inside of the throat and larynx to test any disorders. It can be done using a flexible tube or a rigid tube.
    Through the nose a flexible tube is inserted fixed with a camera and light and is called flexible laryngoscope.
    In the second option a tube with light and camera is inserted via mouth. This is called rigid laryngoscope.
  • Videostroboscope:
    The movements of vocal chords are captured in slow motion using a camera and flash light.
  • Sound Or Acoustic Analysis:
    This method is used to measure the irregularities in the sound produced by the voice boxes. This is a very effective method for checking any voice problem.
  • Laryngeal Electromyography:
    This method measures the electric currents produced by the voice box muscles and detects any irregularities by inserting small needles in the skin.

Types Of Conditions That Affect Voice:
Following are some of the voice conditions that can affect the normal voice of any individual.

Acute Laryngitis
Acute laryngitis is because of viral infection and is one of the most common conditions. This situation results in swollen vocal chords. The hoarseness of the voice is due to the different vibration of the vocal cord because of the swelling.
Keep the throat hydrated and avoid over using or straining the throat. If it is accompanied by breathing difficulty then immediate medical attention is needed.

Chronic Laryngitis
Smoking, asthma, disease, inhalers, acid reflux, yeast or viral infection or exposure of the throat to any other irritating substance leads to this situation. The voice becomes hoarse in this condition.

Laryngopharyngeal Reflux Disease (LPRD)
Pain in throat, hoarse voice, irritation in the throat, difficulty in swallowing food and water, etc are some of the symptoms associated with the acid reflux. Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) is usually the main cause of this vocal disorder. But, at times these symptoms may not appear.

Voice Misuse And Overuse
Like any other organ of the body, voice box and all the related muscles must be used in certain ways. Talking loud, screaming, talking for longer periods of time, inappropriate breathing technique, etc can result in hoarse voice, tired vocal cords, and possible lesions. Screaming, shouting, over use of cell phones, high or low pitch, etc. are other causes for the voice disorders.

Vocal Cord Lesions
Non-cancerous, harmless lesions, on the cords are caused by inappropriate use of voice box, or by misuse of it. In some cases these growths, lesions, polyps, or cysts appear even when the vocal chords are used appropriately. This condition requires minor surgery to correct the problem.

Vocal Cord Hemorrhage
Vocal cord hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel around the voice box ruptures suddenly after any strenuous vocal exercise or screaming etc. The chord soft tissues are then filled with the blood which results in the hemorrhage. This condition demands immediate medical assistance. Complete vocal rest is recommended in this situation.

Paresis And Paralysis Of Vocal Cord
Soft, whispery, breathy voice is the result of one of the two vocal cords going weak or becoming paralyzed. Depending upon the degree of the weakness or paralysis of the cord, treatment is decided. It can be corrected with voice therapy or through minor surgery.

Laryngeal Cancer
Hoarse voice for a longer period of time, or noticing any change in voice should be reported to the doctor immediately. This could be due to the laryngeal cancer. If diagnosed earlier it can be cured.

These are some of the vocal disorder types. Look out for symptoms, and see a doctor if any change is noticed for long. Earlier any disease or disorder is identified the better are the chances to cure it.

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